Muslims in France take over whole streets and hold open-air prayers in them. This began some years back when Muslims gathered at the spot where Princess Diana died in the car accident, and prayed there as though at a shrine. If you happen to live in such a street and want to leave or enter your house, or if you need to drive a car there, bad luck, the weight of numbers makes it impossible. Muslims in this way are asserting that they already have a space of their own and the local French can do nothing about it. Marine Le Pen, daughter of the founder of the National Front, has a chance of doing well in next year’s presidential elections, and she called the street prayers an “occupation.” The word recalls the Nazis taking over the country after 1940.
Claude Guéant, the Interior Minister, has made a political issue of it. “Street prayers must stop because they hurt the feelings of many of our compatriots who are shocked by the occupation of a public space for a religious practice,” he says, bringing in that useful word “occupation.” From today, Muslims are banned from praying outdoors. The police may arrest any who persist.
The French are fighting back, then, pushed too hard by immigrants with different values and customs. Except that on that very day President Nicolas Sarkozy had a triumphal tour of Libya. While he was talking up the glories of France, whole brigades of anti-Qaddafi rebels were prostrate praying in the roadway in front of television cameras. Hasn’t Sarkozy helped to make possible here exactly what he is forbidding at home? Who knows who is deceiving whom.